Muskoka delivers the best of summer on its golf courses and lakes north of Toronto

By Travel ArticlesOctober 19, 2012, 4:00 am

BAYSVILLE, Ontario, Canada -- The sign simply reads 'Tranquility' with an arrow pointing toward a right turn.

It's located on Old Highway 117, the long, winding road around the Lake of Bays that leads to Bigwin Island Golf Club. Don't bother following that sign to find what you seek. Tranquility is everywhere in Muskoka, the cottage country destination two hours north of Toronto.

Muskoka is home to 1,600 lakes -- big and small -- and, most important to golfers, some of the best courses in Canada. With more than 20 golf courses, Muskoka states a strong case as the best golf destination in Canada. No other region boasts as many ScoreGolf top 100 golf courses open to the public as Muskoka.

Muskoka Bay Club (at No. 9) leads the way, followed by Rocky Crest Golf Club (No. 27), Bigwin Island (No. 28, open to public play in spring and fall), Taboo Golf Club (No. 41) and the Highlands Course at Deehurst Resort (No. 58). The Ridge at Manitou Golf Club (No. 64) isn't far away.

Endless water activities -- boating, fishing, canoeing, swimming, skiing and more -- make Muskoka an ideal summer retreat. National Geographic Traveler named Muskoka one of the 'Best of the World' places for 2012.

'Muskoka, it is one of the best golf destinations in the world,' said Mark DeActis, the co-general manager and director of golf at Windermere Golf & Country Club, the oldest course in Muskoka. 'I've been to the Canadian Rockies. Nothing compares to what we have to offer. The (marketing) statement is true, 'Once discovered, never forgotten.' '

Brian McElwain, a Windermere member who lives on Lake Rosseau, describes Muskoka as 'heaven on earth.' As a local realtor, McElwain, the former president of the Muskoka Lakes Association, might seem to be just tossing out another sales pitch. After a week touring Muskoka earlier this fall, I must admit I'm buying it.

Where to play golf in Muskoka

Players must first be warned about Muskoka golf. It's not for the swing challenged.

The Canadian Shield adds several element of trouble -- rock outcroppings and soaring elevation changes -- to all those bunkers, trees, lakes, ponds and marshes.

The older golf courses in Muskoka tend to avoid all that granite. No rocks come into play on the classic parkland setting at Windermere, which dates to 1920. Meanwhile, the Highlands and Lakeside courses at Deerhurst Resort -- both built or redesigned in the early 1990s by Canadian Thomas McBroom -- use the formations only a handful of times to frame holes, like the wonderful par-4 11th hole on the Highlands Course.

The newer and bolder designs at Muskoka Bay Club, The Rock Golf Club and Taboo -- all opened in the past decade -- incorporate the rocks into lines of play. These unforgiving hurdles must be negotiated with risk-reward shots over or around them. It's target golf at its most scenic, but also at its most difficult.

The Rock is a perfect example how challenging it is to balance playability with such demanding landscapes. Original architect Nick Faldo returned just three years after its 2004 debut to blast rock and reroute holes. Even with all this extra effort and its serene setting, The Rock still gets a 'too tough' label by many locals. 'Bring 12 used balls,' one told me. Like any course, if you play the proper tees and get to know the layout intimately, playing The Rock can be an enjoyable round.

Taboo, designed in 2002 by Ron Garl, and Muskoka Bay, a pure playground designed by Doug Carrick in 2007, tend to get higher marks for how the rock makes cameo appearances but doesn't steal the show from the lush green fairways and greens cut through the forest.

The latest addition is Oak Bay Golf & Country Club along the shores of the Severn Sound of the Georgian Bay. Shawn Watters transformed the nine-hole Sunnylea Golf Course into a strong 18-hole test with great par 3s.

The best golf 'experience' might come at Bigwin Island, located on a 700-acre island in the middle of the Lake of Bays. From the five-minute boat ride across the water to a round on the eye-popping Carrick course carved from a shuttered Stanley Thompson design, Bigwin Island delivers a dramatic day, climaxing with the view off the 18th tee, one of the premier perches in all of North American golf.

For those who can't pay the big greens fees associated with Muskoka's best golf courses, there are plenty of fine tracks at a lower cost, notably the 6,252-yard North Granite Ridge Golf Club, the 6,024-yard Muskoka Highlands, the 27-hole Lake St. George Golf Club, the 6,566-yard Huntsville Downs Golf & Country Club and the nine-hole Diamond In The Ruff.

Muskoka lodging

Where to stay depends upon where you'll play. Deerhurst Resort, dating to 1896 in Huntsville, has been re-energized over the past two years, serving as the host of the G8 Summit in 2010. Skyline Hotels & Resorts purchased the property in 2011 and immediately upgraded rooms and suites of the Summitt Lodges. Skyline was recently approved to build a five-story, 173-unit development on Peninsula Lake with a swimming pool, barbecue area, gazebos and other amenities to replace the older lakeside lodge, home to the resort's iconic music shows where Shania Twain was discovered in the 1990s.

Deerhurst caters to all ages and whims. Children will love the water toys at the beach and the adventurous excursions like treetop trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, paintball, or driving a Hummer, a race car or an off-road rock buggy. The Shizen Spa provides stress relief indoors from all that outdoor overexertion. The menus of the fine-dining Eclipse in the main building and Steamers in the Highlands Course clubhouse will delight even the most jaded palates.

Gravenhurst, a quaint town sandwiched between Lake Muskoka and Gull Lake south of Huntsville, boasts a unique mix of accommodations. Golfers have their choice of staying in one of Muskoka Bay Club's luxury villas, the very nice Residence Inn Marriott on the Gravenhurst Muskoka Wharf or at Taboo, a waterfront resort with fine dining and a spa.

Tiny Minett offers two distinct options right down the road from The Rock. Clevelands House caters to families best with cute little cabins just steps from the shores of Lake Rosseau, but golfers will sleep well there, too. The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, the first JW Marriott resort in Ontario, packs more wow factor with its modern luxurious feel, but Clevelands House wins hands down for value.

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Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.